MLB NRFI Picks Today, Model Predictions for Friday, August 11

MLB NRFI Picks Today, Model Predictions for Friday, August 11 article feature image

John Fisher/Getty Images. Pictured: Corbin Burnes

We got back on track Thursday, cashing both bets on a smaller slate.

Friday's a big one though, so let's keep the momentum strong with a total of five bets.

The Model

The process is relatively simple. First, I start by assuming that the full game (implied) run totals for either team are roughly efficient. As mentioned above, that tends to be the case more often than not. This saves me the trouble of trying to predict the total runs scored in the game — and allows me to focus strictly on the "when" rather than "how many."

Next, I built a database of pitchers performance the first time through the order, relative to their overall stats. Since the latter is presumably baked into the full game total, I wanted to figure out if those runs are more likely to come early or late. Most — but not all — MLB starters do somewhat better early in games, but with some variance in just how much. The model uses xFIP (expected Fielding Independent Pitching) as the ERA predictor of choice.

That's only half of the equation, though, with the offenses making up the other half. To do this, I looked at what percentage of a team's total runs is produced by the top three batters in the lineup. While a first inning run scored, by definition, needs at least four hitters to come to the plate, one of the first three has to actually score it. The metric of choice here is wRC+, based on the projected lineup for the day from each team.

This is a bit of a tradeoff, as lineups (and run totals) can shift throughout the day, especially if significant contributors miss time. However, in my experience the inefficiency of the morning lines more than makes up for the leakage in the model. With that said, exercise caution if, say, Mike Trout is listed as questionable for the night's game.

The Picks

With all of the picks below, I'll include the pick, the best line and the threshold I'd bet it to. These will go up in the morning, so if any major news breaks between publishing and when you read it, be sure to consider that.

Infrequently, rather than betting on the traditional YRFI/NRFI, the pick will be on one team or the other specifically to score a run, which as of this writing is only a betting option at DraftKings. Since the model handles each team individually, sometimes one team is projecting for a greater proportion of the "run equity" in the first inning than the betting lines are accounting for.

NRFI Odds, Picks for Friday, August 11

Pittsburgh Pirates vs. Cincinnati Reds YRFI: This game features a nine-run total and pitchers who range the first time through the order from below average (Johan Oviedo) to horrible (Andrew Abbott). Plus, the Reds are a top-10 team in terms of production share from the first three hitters.

Boston Red Sox vs. Detroit Tigers NRFI: I'm projecting a big edge here, albeit a fragile one, as the 2023 sample size on Tigers starter Tarik Skubal is just 27 innings. Still, in that time he has an ERA of 0.59 his first time through the order (with an xFIP of 1.66). His career numbers reflect a similar — though less drastic — trend as well.

Houston Astros vs. Los Angeles Angels YRFI: These two teams are both top-five in production share from their first three hitters, making this a fairly obvious YRFI spot. Justin Verlander is still an above-average arm, but he's not what he once was, nor is he particularly dominant early in games. The Astros' offense is also considerably better against left-handed pitching like they face tonight.

Chicago White Sox vs. Milwaukee Brewers YRFI: The Brewers' Corbin Burnes is one of my favorite pitchers to target YRFIs against. He has excellent overall numbers, which keeps game totals (and thus, YRFI price tags) low, but struggles early in games. His xFIP is higher the first time through the order than overall, a trait shared by White Sox pitcher Michael Kopech.

Seattle Mariners vs. Baltimore Orioles NRFI: This one is the best option to take advantage of BetMGM's Friday NRFI Promo, where bets up to $50 are refunded in Bonus Bets if just one run is scored. They have the best line in the market as well.

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